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Should Britain have gone to war in 1914?

 
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Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/16/2019 9:20:20 PM   
warspite1


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Another excellent debate I stumbled across - with four excellent speakers. I hope this is of interest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqO5CnnKLtA



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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 12:48:08 AM   
AndySfromVA

 

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Terrific. Thanks for posting it.
I think both sides of the issue rely on questionable assumptions. I tend to agree with the position that Britain should not have been involved in WW1 but we'll never know which side was right.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 1:12:15 AM   
philabos

 

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Agreed. Thanks for posting. An excellent debate on the point.
It is naturally easier to make the case Britain should have stayed out when one is aware of post 1914 history.
As Charmley points out, it is impossible to imagine a victorious Kaiser Reich as anything approaching the horrors of the Third Reich.
Too bad those who had to make decisions in August 1914 did not have the benefit of what we all know today.

Aside from a couple of short partisan hit points disguised as audience questions, admirable performace by everyone.

< Message edited by philabos -- 8/17/2019 2:08:35 AM >

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 2:38:37 AM   
Twotribes


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Lets see the facts.... Germany attacked Serbia and Russia. France was allied to Russia, Germany attacked Belgium to get at France. Britain had every reason to be in the war, The war isnt what caused WW2 the peace treaty that the US refused to sign was the cause of WW2 and that falls on France Britain and to a lesser extent Italy.

< Message edited by Twotribes -- 8/17/2019 2:53:16 AM >

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 2:56:05 AM   
Zovs


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Twotribes

Lets see the facts.... Germany attacked Austria and Russia. France was allied to Russia, Germany attacked Belgium to get at France. Britain had every reason to be in the war, The war isnt what caused WW2 the peace treaty that the US refused to sign was the cause of WW2 and that falls on France Britain and to a lesser extent Italy.


Your facts are incorrect.

On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, leading to the July Crisis. In response, on 23 July Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia. Serbia's reply failed to satisfy the Austrians, and the two moved to a war footing.

A network of interlocking alliances enlarged the crisis from a bilateral issue in the Balkans to one involving most of Europe. By July 1914, the great powers of Europe were divided into two coalitions: the Triple Entente—consisting of France, Russia, and Britain—and the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy (the Triple Alliance was primarily defensive in nature, allowing Italy to stay out of the war in 1914). Russia felt it necessary to back Serbia and, after Austria-Hungary shelled the Serbian capital of Belgrade on the 28th, approved partial mobilisation. Full Russian mobilisation was announced on the evening of 30 July; on the 31st, Austria-Hungary and Germany did the same, while Germany demanded Russia demobilise within twelve hours. When Russia failed to comply, Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August in support of Austria-Hungary, with Austria-Hungary following suit on the 6th; France ordered full mobilisation in support of Russia on 2 August.

Wikipedia but the concept is correct.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 3:05:48 AM   
Twotribes


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So what did I get wrong? Germany attacked Russia bringing in France. Britain was defending Belgium.

As for Austria perhaps you can tell me what Country would have agreed to allowing a foreign Nation to send its army into the Country to "search" it?

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 3:17:46 AM   
MrsWargamer


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Hindsight, it's like commonsense, never around when you need it.

I doubt they'd have signed half the treaties they signed, if they could have seen what could happen. But they couldn't see. So they signed them.

No one would have done the treaty at the end of WW1 that they did, if they could have seen what would eventually happen resulting in WW2. But they couldn't. So they did it.

WE love history. It's not the popular class in high school though. Or in politics it would seem. Which is why most of what happened between 1900 and 2019 has happened. No hindsight and no commonsense when you need it.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 10:34:05 AM   
Fishbed

 

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I somewhat take issue with the whole idea that the so-called humiliating treaties are 100% to blame for the overall situation leading into WW2. It might be an interesting take that is useful in terms of Europe-building (let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past, etc…) but it is largely part-myth. A few arguments:

- The treaties as they were might have frustrated Italy, but you won't tell me that they were the single most important cause to the existence of Fascism - but even then, does anyone think that depriving Italy of even more reparations would have prevented Mussolini's rise to power? A better treaty wouldn't have curbed Japanese expansionism either - it might even have accelerated it.

- And what about the mere existence of the Soviet Union? Outside of any treaty, fascism grew and fed itself from its struggle against early communism, and made it its seminal enemy. A kinder version of Versailles would have hardly made a difference.

- I fault the 1929 crisis as much as anything else, if not more, for leading us to what eventually happened. The misery of the economic crisis is the fertile ground on which the Beast grew and prospered. Remember that the Jews were not blamed for allowing Versailles, they were targeted as scapegoats supposedly because they were said to be wealthy when everybody (or at least workers and NSDAP voters) were getting poor (which is pretty much something happening to them since Medieval times each and every time the economy goes wrong). There again, paying the reparations certainly didn't help the Weimar Republic, but it hardly killed it. 1929, on the other hand...

quote:

Lets see the facts.... Germany attacked Serbia and Russia. France was allied to Russia, Germany attacked Belgium to get at France. Britain had every reason to be in the war, The war isnt what caused WW2 the peace treaty that the US refused to sign was the cause of WW2 and that falls on France Britain and to a lesser extent Italy.


Uh uh... I might object here to these facts too

To me, arguably the most important aspect of the treaties is not so much reparations than the dismemberment of the empires, and as such seeing the European powers get the blame for this very Wilsonian idea is sort of ironic. The 14 points didn't come from the mind of Clemenceau or Lloyd Georges, they came from the far side of the ocean, if I am not wrong. You might have the natural reflex of praising Congress for not joining the SDN or ratifying the final treaties with hindsight (although that was more of internal politics d*ck-move of sort), but never forget that there wouldn't be a SDN if it hadn't been for America in the first place. If someone is to blame, then everyone is to blame

My humble 2 cts.

< Message edited by Fishbed -- 8/17/2019 11:01:41 AM >

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 11:08:02 AM   
Aurelian

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Twotribes

So what did I get wrong? Germany attacked Russia bringing in France. Britain was defending Belgium.

As for Austria perhaps you can tell me what Country would have agreed to allowing a foreign Nation to send its army into the Country to "search" it?



Well, you did say that Germany attacked Austria.... :)

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 11:14:11 AM   
Aurelian

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1

Another excellent debate I stumbled across - with four excellent speakers. I hope this is of interest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqO5CnnKLtA




I'll have to watch that but my thinking is that there would of been no blockade and the High Seas Fleet may of had a much easier time of it.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 11:30:59 AM   
Fishbed

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Aurelian

I'll have to watch that but my thinking is that there would of been no blockade and the High Seas Fleet may of had a much easier time of it.


My feeling is that France would have lost anyway by Christmas 1914 - not much time for the blockade to matter anyway ^^

Anyway.

Aurelian is right to mention the navy aspect - because, naturally, Britain didn't go to war for Belgium, it did for the Royal Navy ; the same way the French didn't go to war for Russia, they went to war for Alsace-Moselle. Russia had its reasons to kick the hornet's nest, and Austria wasn't really looking forward to searching Serbia for clues, was it. Not to mention Germany which obviously saw it as the very last step on their path to superpower status. In this game the UK might not have been very honest about its apparent reasons, but it certainly wasn't the only player playing the game of propaganda bluff.

Actually the only ones who went to war officially and unofficially for what they believed in were probably the Americans, whether it was for Wilsonian idealism or the menace Germans at bay (and, arguably, a winning Germany) were for free-trade. One point for you Gents

Seeing through the original pretenses and focusing on the actual causes of war is a welcome benefit of hindsight, so let's enjoy it to its full extent

< Message edited by Fishbed -- 8/17/2019 11:59:12 AM >

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 11:59:10 AM   
loki100


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it wasn't till I read Gat (History of Military Thought - well worth ploughing through) did I realy understand just how much Germany was looking for war - and how much this permeated society including large elements of the SPD.

Their elite had fully embraced social-darwinism (as of course had others) and come up with a view where the British/French empires were holding humanity back. Only once they were replaced by a vibrant German-led international order could humanity (or its favoured parts) reach their full potential.

So they went looking for an opportunity because they had convinced themselves they were doing it for us all. Even if somehow the crisis of late 1914 had been averted (& it could of), Europe would have had an early version of the Cold War without the restraints of nuclear weapons and some understanding of how devastating large scale conflict would have been. So, to me, something akin to the Great War was inevitable, simply as one power saw no reason to avoid it (& indeed saw it as its duty to humanity to set one off).

So could Britain have stayed out - yes, but that would have broken an important treaty (neutrality of Belgium) and a recent, fragile, alliance. And the Germans were not hiding the intellectual case for their framing of international relations.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 12:06:38 PM   
Fishbed

 

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Very true.

One must also consider in your reference to the Cold War that the closest equivalent of Nukes at that times were naturally battleships.

In that regard escalation did occur between the UK and the German Empire early on, and after the war the naval limitation treaties are akin to what START or SALT were to represent decades later. And the 1914 crisis itself, in a way, was just another crisis following another crisis at that time (but who remembers Tangier, the Bosnian crisis or Agadir nowadays) very much like Berlin, Cuba, Afghanistan, the Euromissiles were to be in their own frame, later in the century.

It makes your Cold War allegory all the more accurate in my opinion - the main difference being that nobody expected such a butchery from making the conflict pop eventually.

< Message edited by Fishbed -- 8/17/2019 12:07:44 PM >

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 12:54:17 PM   
stuart3

 

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quote:

My feeling is that France would have lost anyway by Christmas 1914 - not much time for the blockade to matter anyway


That was what the Germans thought too. Along with thinking that the BEF component would be so small as to be insignificant compared to the conscript armies of France and Germany. They invaded Belgium knowing that this would bring Britain into the war because they believed that the war would be won before Britain's contribution could have any significant effect.

quote:

Britain didn't go to war for Belgium, it did for the Royal Navy


If Germany had annexed Belgium then it would have had naval bases on the North Sea coast. Britain couldn't afford for that to happen so it went to war for Belgium and the Royal Navy.


< Message edited by stuart3 -- 8/17/2019 12:57:08 PM >

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 12:56:16 PM   
Lobster


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quote:

ORIGINAL: MrsWargamer

Hindsight, it's like commonsense, never around when you need it.

I doubt they'd have signed half the treaties they signed, if they could have seen what could happen. But they couldn't see. So they signed them.

No one would have done the treaty at the end of WW1 that they did, if they could have seen what would eventually happen resulting in WW2. But they couldn't. So they did it.

WE love history. It's not the popular class in high school though. Or in politics it would seem. Which is why most of what happened between 1900 and 2019 has happened. No hindsight and no commonsense when you need it.



This ^

You can come up with a million million if this and if that but when you get right down to it you only have endless speculation because you just can't know.

< Message edited by Lobster -- 8/17/2019 12:58:26 PM >


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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 1:29:23 PM   
Zovs


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quote:


quote:

ORIGINAL: Twotribes

Lets see the facts.... Germany attacked Austria and Russia.

So what did I get wrong?


Germany never attacked Austria. They were allies.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 1:42:09 PM   
rico21

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1

with four excellent speakers.




Yaaah, the new historians are excellent speakers.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 1:57:25 PM   
RangerJoe


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I have not seen it yet but I am sure that if the United Kingdom did not live up to its treaty commitments to Belgium, then the Commonwealth countries would have been thrilled with the knowledge that they could be easily dropped. I am sure that may have been part of it.

I also read where the Kaiser was actually vacationing was the assassination occurred and he casually gave support for the Austrians who actually want to set it up to take over Serbia. Later when the Kaiser had asked about stopping the mobilization that there were no plans for that and it was impossible.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 2:05:54 PM   
Twotribes


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Aurelian


quote:

ORIGINAL: Twotribes

So what did I get wrong? Germany attacked Russia bringing in France. Britain was defending Belgium.

As for Austria perhaps you can tell me what Country would have agreed to allowing a foreign Nation to send its army into the Country to "search" it?



Well, you did say that Germany attacked Austria.... :)

And if you check my statement you would see I fixed that.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 2:06:32 PM   
Twotribes


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Zovs

quote:


quote:

ORIGINAL: Twotribes

Lets see the facts.... Germany attacked Austria and Russia.

So what did I get wrong?


Germany never attacked Austria. They were allies.

And of course I never corrected myself RIGHT?

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 3:17:17 PM   
Curtis Lemay


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Zovs

On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, leading to the July Crisis. In response, on 23 July Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia. Serbia's reply failed to satisfy the Austrians, and the two moved to a war footing.

A network of interlocking alliances enlarged the crisis from a bilateral issue in the Balkans to one involving most of Europe. By July 1914, the great powers of Europe were divided into two coalitions: the Triple Entente—consisting of France, Russia, and Britain—and the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy (the Triple Alliance was primarily defensive in nature, allowing Italy to stay out of the war in 1914). Russia felt it necessary to back Serbia and, after Austria-Hungary shelled the Serbian capital of Belgrade on the 28th, approved partial mobilisation. Full Russian mobilisation was announced on the evening of 30 July; on the 31st, Austria-Hungary and Germany did the same, while Germany demanded Russia demobilise within twelve hours. When Russia failed to comply, Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August in support of Austria-Hungary, with Austria-Hungary following suit on the 6th; France ordered full mobilisation in support of Russia on 2 August.


So, the first belligerent act was by Serbia, and the first Major Power to trip the alliance dominoes was Russia. Yet the Central Powers get the blame for some reason.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 3:27:38 PM   
Curtis Lemay


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I still say the real reason for WWI was that it had been a century since the last big one. No one was left alive who remembered what it was like. In their minds war was glory and pageantry. And not just the soldiers, generals, politicians, and royalty - but the common people felt that way. When war was announced, it was met with giddy jubilation in the streets. Soldiers marching to the battlefields were just as giddy, often adorned with flowers. Who wouldn't want a war??

Contrast this with Munich. Now a whole generation had seen the monkey show and would do almost anything to avoid it. Even appeasement.

< Message edited by Curtis Lemay -- 8/17/2019 3:28:28 PM >


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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 3:53:24 PM   
loki100


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Curtis Lemay


...

So, the first belligerent act was by Serbia, and the first Major Power to trip the alliance dominoes was Russia. Yet the Central Powers get the blame for some reason.


theres blame enough to go around, but only Germany had an ideology that justified the war that the way to advance humanity (well the white European bit) was to defeat the decadent British and French Empires, so yes, Germany bears prime responsibility for the wider war and Austria-Hungary was pretty keen to have a war with Serbia (& not too worried at the wider implications)


quote:

ORIGINAL: Curtis Lemay

I still say the real reason for WWI was that it had been a century since the last big one. No one was left alive who remembered what it was like. In their minds war was glory and pageantry. And not just the soldiers, generals, politicians, and royalty - but the common people felt that way. When war was announced, it was met with giddy jubilation in the streets. Soldiers marching to the battlefields were just as giddy, often adorned with flowers. Who wouldn't want a war??

Contrast this with Munich. Now a whole generation had seen the monkey show and would do almost anything to avoid it. Even appeasement.


but thats not true. Everyone in the various militaries were aware of what rifles meant on the battlefield, and that before the wider adoption of the machine gun. Battles like Gravelotte were well known and studied for what it meant when just one side had a rifle accurate at around 1km. The Russo-Japanese war made it clear what the cost was going to be of clearing even quick trench lines.

most of the powers that were at the centre of the Great War had fought a major conflict (even if in a colonial setting) in the last 20 years.

Now was the whole thing bedecked with flags and patriotism - of course, was the practical impact on the battlefield a surprise - no.

Its like the myth the Germans didn't know how harsh a Russian winter would be in 1941 - when the majority of their officer corps had fought in Russia from 1915-19 and were well aware of what would happen.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 3:55:15 PM   
Zorch

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Curtis Lemay

I still say the real reason for WWI was that it had been a century since the last big one. No one was left alive who remembered what it was like. In their minds war was glory and pageantry. And not just the soldiers, generals, politicians, and royalty - but the common people felt that way. When war was announced, it was met with giddy jubilation in the streets. Soldiers marching to the battlefields were just as giddy, often adorned with flowers. Who wouldn't want a war??

Contrast this with Munich. Now a whole generation had seen the monkey show and would do almost anything to avoid it. Even appeasement.

'Oh what a lovely war!'
I agree that the public didn't know about the horrors of war in 1914 (and did in 1939). There were a few professionals (like Edward Grey and Kitchener) who did understand what a general European war would be like. Unfortunately they were not in position to overrule the irrational / incompetent people (such as Czar Nicholas, Kaiser Wilhelm and Conrad).

Some leaders (like the French) understood the cost of war, but felt they genuinely had no choice but to fight in 1914.
The Schlieffen plan was designed to avoid a long war, at the risk of losing East Prussia.


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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 4:04:43 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: rico21


quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1

with four excellent speakers.




Yaaah, the new historians are excellent speakers.

warspite1



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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 4:10:18 PM   
Twotribes


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Curtis Lemay


quote:

ORIGINAL: Zovs

On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, leading to the July Crisis. In response, on 23 July Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia. Serbia's reply failed to satisfy the Austrians, and the two moved to a war footing.

A network of interlocking alliances enlarged the crisis from a bilateral issue in the Balkans to one involving most of Europe. By July 1914, the great powers of Europe were divided into two coalitions: the Triple Entente—consisting of France, Russia, and Britain—and the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy (the Triple Alliance was primarily defensive in nature, allowing Italy to stay out of the war in 1914). Russia felt it necessary to back Serbia and, after Austria-Hungary shelled the Serbian capital of Belgrade on the 28th, approved partial mobilisation. Full Russian mobilisation was announced on the evening of 30 July; on the 31st, Austria-Hungary and Germany did the same, while Germany demanded Russia demobilise within twelve hours. When Russia failed to comply, Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August in support of Austria-Hungary, with Austria-Hungary following suit on the 6th; France ordered full mobilisation in support of Russia on 2 August.


So, the first belligerent act was by Serbia, and the first Major Power to trip the alliance dominoes was Russia. Yet the Central Powers get the blame for some reason.

Let me get this right.... the act of a single man was the fault of an entire Country.... Then the demand by Austria to invade Serbia with its army was a viable action that Serbia should have allowed?

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 4:12:40 PM   
warspite1


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The debate is about whether Britain should have gone to war in 1914 - not who was responsible for WWI (although of course that aspect may be pertinent to the subject of the debate).

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 4:17:06 PM   
Twotribes


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And I answered that YES Britain should have gone to war Germany was an aggressor State and invaded a Country Britain was pledged to protect.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 4:47:47 PM   
Lobster


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Twotribes

And I answered that YES Britain should have gone to war Germany was an aggressor State and invaded a Country Britain was pledged to protect.


And therein lies the madness of the entire circus of lunatics. Let's kill off an entire generation because of a signature on a piece of paper. Oh but honor, what about honor? Ah yes, it's buried six feet under the ground in millions of graves. Except for the ones who signed the paper. They're drinking wine and congratulating themselves on winning the war. And that same lunacy continues today.

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RE: Should Britain have gone to war in 1914? - 8/17/2019 5:30:29 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Twotribes

......and invaded a Country Britain was pledged to protect.
warspite1

I would be interested to hear your interpretation of the agreement signed by the major powers and what they were and were not obliged to do re Belgium. Where does it state the UK pledged to protect Belgium?


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England expects that every man will do his duty. Horatio Nelson October 1805



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